Archive for the ‘apparatus’ Category

Dissecting Drawer Box” from the Marco Pusterla Collection. Most images, when clicked on, will show the picture in higher definition.

One of the most enduring magic tricks, with which almost any magician, amateur or professional, has at least once played with, must be the “drawer box“, a wooden parallelepiped with a drawer which can be shown empty, closed, opened again, and shown to contain some objects that have mysteriously materialized. Today, this box is often found made in plastic, churned out in hundreds of thousands of copies by some company in China, and sold as a toy for children, as a commercial gadget to promote products, or as part of a magic set for aspiring magicians.

The object doesn’t really look like anything existing in this time and age, and it often looks like what it is: a suspicious magic device, hiding some clever mechanism to befuddle the unwary. On doing a quick search for images of contemporary drawer boxes on the Internet, one sees an interesting gallery of the most variegated, multi-coloured, collection of boxes. (more…)

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Issue 49 cover smallA few weeks ago, I received an email from Mark Leveridge, the editor of MagicSeen, a magic magazine for the younger and cooler side of the magic profession. Mark wanted to publish an article about magic collecting and, having found my blog interesting, decided to interview myself and Fergus Roy, the noted collector, organizer of magic collecting events, scholar, magic historian and part of the well-known Davenport family, on why magic collecting is important. (more…)

Conchito_PosterWorld War II had, as it is well known, a huge impact on Europe, on its geography, on its political ideas, on the relations between different countries. And it also had a large impact on magic. When the war ended, in 1945, diffidence and mistrust was rife in all European countries. One of the few exceptions was in the world of magic: magicians are a friendly group, looking for contacts, friendship, novelties from other lovers of the art, anywhere in the world. While Europe was busy rebuilding trades, houses and families, a group of magicians from different countries made a significant step towards the reunion of magic lovers: the first international (actually, pan-European) magic convention. In 1946, three-hundred magicians from all around Europe descended to Amsterdam, Holland, for the first magic meeting after the war.

The following year, the event was repeated in Paris, France, with the attendance of more than five-hundred conjurers from Europe and abroad, and the base was set for the creation of FISM, the International Federation of Magic Societies that, since then, has been organizing regular conventions and, especially, the most prestigious magic competition in the World, which every three years crowns the best magician in the world. While in recent years the number of competitors has swelled, in 1947 only 70 magicians competed for a handful of prizes in only three categories: some competitors were also performing in the gala shows for the attendees! One of the categories was “Presentation” which was to recognize the most original performers of classic magic tricks. The first prize winner was Englishman Willane (William H. Lane), a popular author of magic books for the fraternity. The winner of the third prize was an obscure Dutch magician, a popular illusionist in Holland in the years after the war, and the subject of this story: Conchito.

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Bartolomeo Bosco (1793 - 1863)

Bartolomeo Bosco (1793 – 1863)

It is thanks to Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin that the name of Bartolomeo Bosco and his artistic legacy has come down to us, that we know his repertoire and that we are aware of his importance and of his popularity. It is also from Robert-Houdin that we learn that Bosco was a murderer, committing every night one or more assassinations in front of the eyes of a paying audience, without ever having to justify his actions. In addition to his powerful and exceedingly skilled hands, a sword was his favourite instrument, and it is this sword, now in front of me, that I want to discuss today…

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Louis Nikola's Nine of Hearts photo

One of the mysterious photos of Louis Nikola

One of the oddest items from my collection is something I acquired many years ago for a very low price… The price was actually what made me buy this item. It is a worn and moth-eaten folder which contains some belongings of Louis Nikola, today remembered for his Nikola’s Card System, the first example of memorized deck. These items are twelve photographs of playing cards, as mirror images, and six notices to be hang in the wings during Nikola’s performance asking other performers to refrain from standing in the wings. The photos are quite odd, what were they for?

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The Magic Table

"Hoffmann" Magic Table, for the discerning Victorian Performer

As a small-time collector of magic items, especially books, I tend not to accumulate apparatus, as it is not my area of interest and because it tends to take too much precious space, better left to books. However, from time to time, I find some interesting item that would simply be a pity to leave to rot. This post is about a really nice item, with an interesting story behind.

Let’s start at the beginning. Some years ago, the famous British illusionist, Paul Daniels, decided to downsize his collection: books, posters, apparatus, illusions, ephemera went out for sale, in the capable hands of Tim Reed. In about a year a warehouse outside Doncaster was almost empty, with collectors from all over the world pleased with their acquisition. While browsing the collection’s catalogue, I once saw a “Victorian magic table” being offered for sale. (more…)